Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bikes and Work Gloves

Some time ago I had an interesting experience at a local Walmart. Walking to my car with a cart of groceries I walked past a bike chained to a handicap sign. The bike had a beat up light for riding at night and a bent and re-bent rack for holding bags or whatever. The bike looked well used.

Then I saw the owner of the bike.

A "Mexican" - he checked the lock as he walked by, the way any responsible bike owner would.

Some background on me. I grew up in Queen Creek, Arizona. My Dad was literally raised on a farm and wanted his kids to have the same experience. My parents bought a lot, plopped down a house and started a garden before the paint was dry. Summers for me were not spent with video games but working the garden and mowing the lawn. During and after high school I got a job working for a family friend doing construction. Most of my time was spent working for/with his foreman, Manual. He liked to call me "el gato" because I would volunteer to climb high in the framing of our projects. I got an education from my experiences with Manual that I have always struggled to put into words in a way that conveyed my real feelings.

Then I remembered that bike and remembered my experiences with Manual.

I saw the owner in the parking lot. He worked for Walmart bringing in their carts and I am pretty sure he was cut from the same cloth as Manual. He wore a hat, not a ball cap but a wide brimmed hat that kept out the sun. He had gloves that had the wavy white sweat lines that properly used gloves get. He was "seasoned" as some say.

I had parked pretty close to the cart return but rather than put my basket there I walked it back to the store. I owed, this man, that. I didn't do it out of pity or desire to provide reparations one cart at a time.

He knew how to work and he was not afraid or ashamed to do it. He had a light on his bike, not for midnight runs to get booze but because he started work before the sun was up. He wore gloves because he knew that callouses could get so big that it would hurt to move his fingers. His hat shielded his eyes because he knew the sun would get to them by the end of the day.

Did he need to work? Maybe, but probably not. With government programs, less effort would be required to sponge from program to program. People don't work with that kind of purpose for money. I think I knew that he was working for the same reason my Dad worked and had me and my siblings work. He rode his bike early each morning and wore sweaty gloves everyday on the hope that his kids could be just a little better, have just a little more.

Growing up my Dad traveled and worked long hours. I knew it was hard on him, that there where other things he wanted to do and I always respected him for doing what he needed to be a good provider. Having my own kids I see how hard being away can be and I respect him even more. Maybe I was saying thank you to my Dad, or maybe I was saying thank you to that man for his kids, I don't really know. I do know walking a cart back to the store was the absolutely smallest thing I could have done, he really deserved much more.

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